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Stephen Bollenbach $750,000,000 Man

October 21, 2016

Steve Bollenbach passed away last week. I did not know him, but he factored into a wonderful day and continuing dialogue I had and have with my son Rick.

Rick always had a keen interest in the stock market. In 1994 when Rick was home for a Christmas break from college he owned some Capital Cities/ABC and Walt Disney Company stock and received a notice of a stockholders’ meeting Disney was having that week in Manhattan to discuss the Cap Cities acquisition by Disney. He asked if we could go, and we did.

At the meeting were the usual people including Michael Eisner, the then Chairman and CEO. Steve Bollenbach, Disney’s CFO, made a presentation explaining how Disney would finance the acquisition and handle the debt service. After the meeting Rick said to me that Bollenbach was a very impressive person and we discussed the role of a CFO and some of his financing maneuvers.

Sometime afterwards, I read in the NY Times that Bollenbach was to be named CEO of Hilton and immediately called Rick to tell him and see if he wanted to buy some Hilton stock. The announcement was made after the market closed on a Friday and on Monday the stock opened up 15 points. There were 50 million Hilton shares outstanding so, on the announcement of Bollenbach being named CEO, Hilton’s market cap increased $750 million. Super impressive! Rick spotted a winner, but held off buying the stock since it had already priced in Bollenback’s expectations.

Steve Bollenbach was a very impressive person with a varied and renowned career. Prior to joining Disney he engineered the plan that kept Donald Trump from having to file for personal bankruptcy; was Treasurer and CFO for Marriott and CFO for Holiday Inn among other positions. When he left Disney to join Hilton he became the first nonfamily member to hold their CEO position. He retired when Hilton was acquired by the Blackstone Group in 2007.

I consult with a lot of businesses about their value and the trigger points that create and add value. Here was a $750 million increase in value just on the announcement! I hope he locked up his stock options beforehand!

Bollenbach was a master of corporate finance, debt structuring and planned bankruptcy and he was involved in some of the biggest deals of his time. He is also a link to my memory bank of a wonderful day I spent with my son because we also made the rounds of some of my Wall Street clients giving Rick a glimpse into what brokers, traders and investment bankers do.

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